When sport or fitness is your stress-buster, an injury that gets in the way of your routine can feel like the sky is falling down.
It’s inevitable that if you have a regular sport or activity, you’re going to hurt something at some point. Whether it’s repetitive strain or overuse, or an actual injury, enforced time out has you kicking yourself – why did/didn’t I do that, why didn’t I listen to my body. We fill up with frustration and anger and direct it inwardly. This makes the situation worse – you already feel stressed from losing your outlet for release, and suddenly there’s all this pent up anxiety to deal with. At this point it’s easy to comfort eat and start destroying all the results you’ve spent months working towards. Cue more anger and more eating.
Which brings me to today. A few weeks ago after finally getting my handspring (VICTORY!) I started getting pain in my elbow. I tried to manage it by working around it but it continued to get worse. Now I’m in a cycle of icing, ibuprofen gel and deep heat. I felt pretty crappy. I tried to just do some gentle dance and stretching but even when I found things I could still do, I felt too unmotivated to do them.
I waited a week for a doctor’s appointment after the pain started increasing despite resting it. The nurse’s advice? ‘Rest more’ – up to 6-8 weeks. She didn’t understand how hard that was to hear, nor did she ask any questions about how it started hurting, where it hurt, my training or so on. I mean, I get it, I wasn’t dying or anything, I don’t expect to be the NHS’ number 1 priority, but I was hoping for an explanation and any potential way to speed up recovery, even by a day.
I went to see a sports physio, who fit me in straight away. I showed him pictures and videos of what I’d been training, and he examined the joint and its movement from every angle. It turns out it was a ligament injury, which has now been surrounded by scar tissue leading to the soreness and stiffness that I feel even when resting it. In fact, keeping it immobile has probably made it worse. He treated me with some acupuncture to stimulate blood flow and gave me an intense sports massage all around the joint. For the rest of the day it felt like an awful bruise, but a day later it feels more agile and lighter, less painful already. He says I can even go back to pole next week, but taking it easy. I felt optimistic and relieved!
Injuries are the price we pay for passion, and fortunately most of the time they’re only minor even when they feel like the end of the world. Stepping back and giving yourself the time you need to heal can feel like you’ve lost part of yourself. Maybe I’m being overdramatic, but especially in the pole community, being out of action for any period of time is widely understood to make you feel crappy. Maybe that’s our own fault when we lose perspective, or maybe it’s an inevitability when something becomes such a huge part of your life. I’m the first to admit that my whining about this is self indulgent, but I also know I’m not the only one who becomes overwhelmed at these little setbacks.
In 5 weeks time I’m supposed to be performing a pole routine and a silks routine at our summer showcase – at this point, both will be freestyled rather than choreographed, and I probably won’t be pulling out my best tricks. But at least it seems like I’ll actually be there, and that’s put me in a much better mood.